Religious Hospitals Relieved From Performing Transgender Surgeries: U.S. Court

A federal court blocked a Biden administration mandate Friday that would violate several Catholic organizations’ religious rights and moral convictions to perform or pay for transgender surgeries.

The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a North Dakota lower court grant of permanent injunctive relief to block the mandate because “intrusion upon the Catholic Plaintiffs’ exercise of religion is sufficient to show irreparable harm,” the filing reads.

The decision reflects a previous case in Texas last August, where the Fifth Circuit court permanently blocked the Biden administration’s mandate that would force thousands of doctors affiliated with Christian medical associations to provide so-called gender-confirming care to transgender people, National Review reports.

Attorney Luke Goodrich with the Becket Fund — which represented a group of Catholic nuns, medical clinics, and a university — told reporters that the non-profit legal group now has two different federal courts of appeals permanently blocking the Biden administration from “forcing religious doctors and hospitals to perform gender transitions in violation of their conscience,” per the National Review.

Goodrich told Reuters that the ruling protects patients and allows doctors to follow their oath to “do no harm.”

“The federal government has no business forcing doctors to violate their consciences or perform controversial procedures that could permanently harm their patients,” Goodrich said in a statement.

The court’s decision stems from an Obama-era Health and Human Services Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act’s Section 1557 and Title VII, and how applying it conflicts with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Under the Obama administration official’s interpretation, doctors nationwide would be forced to medically provide transgender surgeries despite their medical opinion or conscience objections.

A provider specializing in gynecological services that previously declined to provide a medically necessary hysterectomy for a transgender man would have to revise its policy to provide the procedure for transgender individuals in the same manner it provides the procedure for other individuals.” the rule reads.

The Trump administration attempted to repeal the rule in 2020. However, federal courts blocked the attempt, according to Reuters.

At an oral argument reported by Bloomberg Law, government officials said religious groups lacked standing to challenge the policy. However, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued violating the Affordable Care Act section would allegedly subject them to credible threats from federal health agencies and commissions.

Eighth Circuit court judges said despite Biden’s team objecting to the plaintiff’s argument that the rule would be enforced against them because they hadn’t had the opportunity to try yet, according to National Review, the explanation amounted to a “concession that they may do so.”

Goodrich added to the National Review report that despite the Biden administration’s options to either seek another hearing from the Eighth Circuit or submit an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, he doubts they would “pursue either of these avenues,” considering officials decline to attempt either after the unfavorable ruling from the Fifth Circuit.

Although the plaintiffs would still provide medical care for transgender patients, the groups believe gender-transition surgeries would cause harm.

Sister Petra Nielsen of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration and the Franciscan Alliance’s corporate board member said that the organization seeks to “carry on Jesus Christ’s healing ministry by providing the best possible care to every person who comes through our doors.”

“We are simply asking the courts to let us keep caring for all our patients with joy and compassion — as we’ve done for over 145 years,” she said.

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